In June 1937, H.D. and his younger brother, Hollis, enlisted in the Navy. His older brother, Rickard, had already joined the Navy. The brothers reported to the Naval Training Station for boot camp in Norfolk, Virginia. The clerk at the recruitment center had reversed and misspelled H.D.’s name on the enlistment papers. Therefore, his legal name became Hubert Druey. After three months in Norfolk, the brothers returned to Norfolk for their assignments. Both, H.D. and Hollis reported on November 11, 1937 to the U.S.S. Tucker, a new destroyer. H.D. was an apprentice seaman and the projectile loader for one of the five inch guns. The Tucker left dock to join the Pacific Fleet in San Diego. While en route, H.D. transferred to the forward engine room of the Tucker.
While in San Diego, H.D. was promoted to P.O. Second Class. Then, in December 1939, orders were given for the Tucker to join the Hawaiian Detachment in Pearl Harbor. Over the first year and a half that H.D. was stationed in Hawaii, he was promoted to evaporation operator and then to throttleman. In July 1941, he extended his enlistment for two more years which allowed him 30 days leave in late October to visit his family. He returned to the Destroyer base in San Diego in late November, where he waited for transport back to the Tucker.
Early on December 7, 1941, H.D. was awakened by the news that the Japanese had attacked the ships at Pearl Harbor. Five battleships and three destroyers were sunk. He had no way of knowing the fate of the Tucker and its crew. Later, it was determined 3,000 men were killed. H.D. was taken to Pearl Harbor on a transport ship. They arrived four days later to see the harbor was still littered with debris. On the morning of the attack, the Tucker pulled away from dock and was able to open fire on some of the approaching Japanese planes during the attack. The destroyer had not been damaged and returned to dock to finish previous repairs. H.D. went back to work on the USS Tucker in the engineering department. All of his skills in engineering were learned through apprenticeship on this ship.
In late December 1941, the Tucker joined the battle against the Japanese for Midway Island. After a few days of continuous battle, the destroyer ran escort service for supply ships and carriers taking soldiers to battle areas. On August 7, 1942, while escorting a gasoline cargo ship to the Southern Solomons, the Tucker took a fatal blow from a mine or torpedo. The crew abandoned ship, loaded into rafts and floated ashore. For a month, the crew helped the marines finish building a temporary landing strip on the island.
When H.D. returned to the U.S. in October 1942, he and several other crewmen were sent to the Boston Navy Yard to commission a new destroyer, the U.S.S. Bennett. H.D. went back to work in the engine room and on February 9, 1943, the destroyer was launched. The Bennett joined the Pacific Fleet and served as protective escort for troop ships making their way to Australia and New Zealand. By this time, H.D. had been notified that Hollis, who transferred to a different destroyer in 1940, was missing in action.
On July 27, 1943, H.D. was promoted to Chief Machinist Mate. Later that year, the Bennett joined the fighting Task Force 58 and was under almost constant battle conditions for much of the following 18 months. They assisted in the attacks on Saipan, the battle for the Philippine Sea, the battle and capture of Guam, the capture of the Palu Islands, and the capture of Iwo Jima.
On April 7 1945, during the battle for Okinawa, a Japanese kamikaze pilot crashed into the Bennett cutting the power and causing major damage to the forward engine room. Seven sailors, including some men who worked in the engine room with H.D., died on the ship. H.D. didn't come out of the ordeal unscathed. He suffered injuries to his face, neck, chest and stomach. He was put on a hospital ship, the USS Solace, and taken to the Military Hospital in Saipan to be treated for his injuries. After he was released, he reported to the Bremerton Navy Yard in Washington where the Bennett was undergoing repairs. It had been almost four months since he had been carried off the ship on a stretcher. H.D. went home to Suwanee, Georgia on survivors leave. A few days later, he received word that Japan surrendered and he could be discharged if he so desired. On September 22, 1945, H.D.’s honorable discharge from the Navy became final.
H.D. was awarded the Purple Heart, "which I didn't deserve", he humbly added. The Congressionally-chartered order is awarded only to veterans who were wounded in combat.